Selections from the Dhammapada

In the next few pages you’ll find some translations from the Dhammapada. They’re arranged pretty much randomly, roughly in the order that I translated them when I was studying Pali at the University of Montana.

At some point I hope to organize them, translate more verses, and post commentaries on some of the verses that I’ve reflected on most.

The language in these verses is typically very simple and direct. These are not deeply philosophical statements, but simple reminders of how life should be lived. The verses are short and easy to memorize, and a good way to use these would be to take them as mottos for a period of time.

I’d suggest you only read a few at a time. The Dhammapada verses were meant to be used for reflection — one verse or a few verses turned over and over in the mind so that the spiritual messages they contain seeps deeper and deeper into our minds. When we read too many of these in quick succession, we end up reading very superficially, and nothing sticks.

Sometimes the language can seem to be so direct that it verges on the distasteful to our modern ears. In those cases I think it’s even more important to pay attention to the message. For example, when the Buddha advises us to stay away from “low sorts of people”, we might react to this on the basis of political correctness and think of this as an elitist statement. But instead of skimming over verses that jar with your sensibilities, I suggest you sit with them until you find an interpretation that fits with your experience.

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